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The Macropolitics of Congress

The Macropolitics of Congress

E. Scott Adler
John S. Lapinski
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Macropolitics of Congress
    Book Description:

    How do public laws, treaties, Senate confirmations, and other legislative achievements help us to gain insight into how our governmental system performs?

    This well-argued book edited by Scott Adler and John Lapinski is the first to assess our political institutions by looking at what the authors refer to as legislative accomplishment. The book moves beyond current research on Congress that focuses primarily on rules, internal structure, and the microbehavior of individual lawmakers, to look at the mechanisms that govern how policy is enacted and implemented in the United States. It includes essays on topics ranging from those dealing with the microfoundations of congressional output, to large N empirical analyses that assess current theories of lawmaking, to policy-centered case studies.

    All of the chapters take a Congress-centered perspective on macropolicy while still appreciating the importance of other branches of government in explaining policy accomplishment.The Macropolitics of Congressshines light on promising pathways for the exploration of such key issues as the nature of political representation. It will make a significant contribution to the study of Congress and, more generally, to our understanding of American politics. Contributors include E. Scott Adler, David Brady, Charles M. Cameron, Brandice Canes-Wrone, Robert S. Erikson, Grace R. Freedman, Valerie Heitshusen, John D. Huber, Ira Katznelson, Keith Krehbiel, John S. Lapinski, David Leblang, Michael B. MacKuen, David R. Mayhew, Nolan McCarty, Charles R. Shipan, James A. Stimson, and Garry Young.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4120-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction Defining the Macropolitics of Congress
    (pp. 1-18)
    John S. Lapinski and E. Scott Adler

    In June 2001, the Republican Party was surprised to learn that Senator James Jeffords (Vt.) was leaving the party, resulting in a swing of control of the Senate to the Democrats and transforming a unified Republican government into one with divided control of Congress. This was the first time that such a switch occurredduringa congressional session and offered scholars the rare opportunity to study its effect in legislative midstream. The event consumed the national media for days and provided political scientists with an exceptional opportunity to test an important and perplexing theoretical question— what effect does the switch...

  6. Part I: Theoretical Approaches to the Macropolitics of Congress

    • 1 Macropolitics and Micromodels: Cartels and Pivots Reconsidered
      (pp. 21-49)
      Keith Krehbiel

      An ongoing debate in contemporary legislative studies centers on whether a good theory of lawmaking in the U.S. national government requires an explicit party component. The main bones of contention have been picked sufficiently elsewhere¹ that some participants or observers may wish to “call the whole thing off.” To do so seems ill advised, however. Not only is the issue far from resolved, but it also resides at the heart of obtaining a deeper understanding of dynamic democratic processes. Political parties exist in nearly every democratic system of government; therefore knowledge about the conditions under which political parties affect electoral...

    • 2 Bureaucratic Capacity and Legislative Performance
      (pp. 50-76)
      John D. Huber and Nolan McCarty

      Ironically, most studies of the macro performance of Congress are rather micro in their orientation. Existing work focuses almost exclusively on how the distribution of political preferences across parties and branches affects the output of “significant” legislation. It has not focused on longer-term institutional changes that increase or decrease the capacity or willingness of Congress to perform its legislative functions.

      If one seeks only to explain the post–World War II time series of legislative enactments, a focus on divided government (Mayhew 1991; et al. 2000), the gridlock interval (Krehbiel 1998), or bicameral polarization (Binder 1999) may be appropriate. However,...

  7. Part II: The Macropolitics of Representation

    • 3 Public Opinion and Congressional Policy: A Macro-Level Perspective
      (pp. 79-95)
      Robert S. Erikson, Michael B. MacKuen and James A. Stimson

      What role does public opinion play in congressional policymaking? Considering the limited attention that the average voter pays to congressional goingson, one might be tempted to answer, “not much.” The voter at the average or median level of political information and awareness speaks with a weak voice when it comes to current congressional policy issues. At best, such a voter is capable of evaluating policies only after the fact, retrospectively evaluating their political agents from the perceived consequences of their actions. If the whims of our uninformed typical voter were to govern electoral outcomes, politicians would be free to enact...

    • 4 The Substance of Representation: Studying Policy Content and Legislative Behavior
      (pp. 96-126)
      Ira Katznelson and John S. Lapinski

      Elected representatives, equipped with the authority conferred by mandates of their constituents and the legitimacy bestowed by the regime’s constitutional design, make binding decisions across an enormous range. In choosing which public statutes, resolutions, and treaties to enact, they are guided by the organizational routines and rules of the legislature, steered by party commitments and ideologies, directed by agendas established outside and inside their institution, and motivated by the desire to both stay in office and make contributions in the public good. Empirically and normatively, outputs of the state made authoritative by the legislative approval of representatives—what this volume...

  8. Part III: Testing Theories of Macropolitics across Time

    • 5 Macropolitics and Changes in the U.S. Code: Testing Competing Theories of Policy Production, 1874–1946
      (pp. 129-150)
      Valerie Heitshusen and Garry Young

      In recent years, there has been a surge of work examining the trends in legislative production over time. Mayhew (1991) reevaluated the conventional wisdom that divided government contributes to gridlock by examining the legislative production of major policy since World War II. Other scholars followed, attempting to explain changes in productivity in more theoretical and empirical detail, by elaborating a new theoretical structure (e.g., Krehbiel 1998), by using alternate measures of legislative productivity (e.g., Howell, et al. 2000), and by testing for other factors, including the influences of key legislative features (such as supermajority rules like the filibuster) and changing...

    • 6 Does Divided Government Increase the Size of the Legislative Agenda?
      (pp. 151-170)
      Charles R. Shipan

      Divided government has become one of the defining features of the political landscape in the United States. This represents a dramatic change from the first half of the twentieth century, when divided government was an infrequent phenomenon. From 1900 through the end of World War II, the president’s party controlled both chambers of Congress in all but the last two years of Taft’s term, the last two years of Wilson’s second term, and the last two years of Hoover’s term.¹ In the post–World War II era, on the other hand, 17 of 28 elections produced divided government. Furthermore, this...

  9. Part IV: Macropolitics and Public Policy

    • 7 The Macropolitics of Telecommunications Policy, 1899–1998: Lawmaking, Policy Windows, and Agency Control
      (pp. 173-194)
      Grace R. Freedman and Charles M. Cameron

      In this chapter, we use a macropolitics approach to study a century of congressional policymaking for telecommunications. What we attempt to explain is the production of major laws—their timing and volume—in the area of telecommunications policy. Our real subject, however, is the creation and operation of regulatory regimes. Therefore, we view the chapter not only as an experiment in macropolitics but also as one in policy history or “American Political Development” (APD). We show that simple and largely intuitive notions from rational choice institutionalism afford at least some purchase on the historical data.

      Let us stake out more...

    • 8 The Influence of Congress and the Courts over the Bureaucracy: An Analysis of Wetlands Policy
      (pp. 195-210)
      Brandice Canes-Wrone

      A major finding of research on congressional-bureaucratic relations is that members of Congress can influence administrative decisions absent explicit legislative action. For example, Arnold (1979) shows that bureaucrats allocate projects to the districts of those members with the most influence over the bureaucrats’ programs. Arnold argues that the legislators do not need to command the allocation; rather, the threat of budgetary cuts or other statutory reform causes the officials to anticipate the members’ likely reactions and allot the projects accordingly. Similarly, Calvert, Moran, and Weingast (1987) demonstrate that the Federal Trade Commission’s decisions are correlated with change in the ideological...

    • 9 Legislative Bargaining and the Macroeconomy
      (pp. 211-238)
      E. Scott Adler and David Leblang

      With only hours to spare before the U.S. government would default in June 2002, the House of Representatives passed legislation identical to the Senate’s proposal to raise the national debt by $450 billion. TheNew York Timesreported that the stock market had become skittish at the prospect of an executive-legislative standoff over the debt limit, potentially leading to a partial government shutdown as occurred in the winter of 1994–95 (Stevenson 2002). This eleventh-hour agreement between Congress and President Bush is just one of many instances where bargaining between Capitol Hill and the White House has important ramifications for...

  10. Part V: Understanding the Macropolitics of Congress

    • 10 Lawmaking and History
      (pp. 241-250)
      David R. Mayhew

      The “macropolitics” of Congress has become a success story. That would seem to be the main lesson to draw from the uniformly fine chapters of this volume. They are a heterogeneous lot. It would be gratuitous to try to summarize them one by one, probably unhelpful to reach for overarching generalizations (I cannot think of any) or in the cases of several chapters pointless, given my own background, even to comment.

      Instead I would like to discuss a few of the chapters, or rather to address questions raised for me by a few of them. All my comments bear on...

    • 11 Rational Choice, History, and the Dynamics of Congress
      (pp. 251-258)
      David Brady

      The study of the dynamics of American politics has held the interest of a large portion of those in our profession who study the American system of government. For over two decades realignment theory dominated the study of the dynamics of American politics. The work of V. O. Key (1955, 1959) and Walter D. Burnham (Burnham 1965; Burnham and Sprague 1970) provided those who examine American politics with a periodizing mechanism, which neatly delineated American history into matching electoral and policy periods. With the ebb of realignment theory the study of the dynamic aspects of American politics came under the...

  11. Index
    (pp. 259-263)